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Blogpost: Largest Patent Lawsuits Ever Filed


As part of my fascination with trademarks and patents, I love compiling lists of events that are significant in the patent world. Trademarks and patents are designed to protect intellectual property from being stolen, which naturally leads to a lot of lawsuits involving infringement issues. After looking at some of the largest patent lawsuits ever filed, I started to see some names I was not expecting to see. I guess it is that element of surprise that makes these kinds of lists exciting for me.

Here are the largest patent lawsuits I could find and a little bit about each one. I think that the biggest lesson to be learned from these lawsuits is that any company is in danger of being scammed if they don't file and protect their patents. If you want to monetize your company's inventions, then you need to invest in protecting them first.

Johnson & Johnson Versus Abbott Laboratories: $1.67 Billion Awarded to Johnson & Johnson

I am not a pharmaceuticals expert, but I do know something about patent lawsuits, and an award of $1.67 billion is the largest I could find in corporate history. Abbot Laboratories released a drug called Humira, which reminded Johnson & Johnson an awful lot of its drug Remicade. Johnson & Johnson sued, and the jury decided that Abbott Laboratories purposely copied Remicade and awarded Johnson & Johnson $1.67 billion.

The key here is that the jury decided that Abbott Laboratories acted willfully and purposely in copying Remicade. I am not sure what would have happened if the infringement was ruled to be an accident, but I would be willing to bet that Abbott Laboratories has a much more comprehensive fact-finding phase in its drug production process now.

Polaroid Versus Kodak: $925 Million And $873 Million Awarded to Polaroid

I have a soft spot in my heart for this one because it deals with those instant cameras I grew up with as a kid. I remember Polaroid's instant cameras, but I didn't realize that Kodak had put out instant cameras as well. It turns out that Polaroid owned the patent on instant cameras, and it cost Kodak a total of $1.798 billion to find that out.

The $873 million was awarded by the courts when Polaroid sued Kodak for patent infringement. But when it was revealed that the financial damage done by Kodak was worth billions of dollars, Polaroid filed another lawsuit. The $925 million was an out-of-court settlement that finally put this series of patent lawsuits to rest.

Ric Richardson Versus Microsoft: $537 Million Awarded to Richardson

Microsoft has been on the winning end of a lot of patent lawsuits, but the biggest patent lawsuit the software giant has ever been involved in turned out to be a loss. Australian inventor Ric Richardson contended that an anti-piracy process that Microsoft was using was actually his patented invention. When Richardson took Microsoft to court, the jury agreed with Richardson and ruled in his favor.

This 2009 ruling was in direct response to the anti-piracy process in Windows XP. But this one may not be over yet, as the jury had determined that Microsoft's actions were intentional. As we saw with Abbott Laboratories, an intentional patent infringement can get costly. The two sides are still battling this one out, but it is estimated that the amount awarded could go as high as $1.5 billion before this is over.